Democrats on Saturday elected Hillary Clinton’s long-time ally, former Labour Secretary, Tom Perez, as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
The election was seen as a proxy battle between Clinton and her arch challenger for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Perez defeated Minnesota Rep Keith Ellison and four other candidates in a race at a time when the party is facing one of its greatest challenges in serving as a credible opposition and united check to Republican President Donald Trump.
The election, however, saw Perez receiving 235 votes in the second round of voting, ahead of Sanders’ preferred candidate, Keith Ellison’s 200.
With 435 members voting, the threshold for victory in the second round was 218 votes.
The threshold for winning the first vote was 214.5 votes, and Perez was just one vote short of achieving that exact mark in the first round.
He garnered 213.5 votes to Ellison’s 200, resulting in a second ballot.
In his victory speech, Perez said he was appointing Ellison the Deputy Chair of the DNC.
Perez previously served as the U.S. Secretary of Labour from 2013 to 2017 under former President Barack Obama.
He has also spent time as the Assistant Attorney-General for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Before the vote took place in Atlanta, Perez told DNC members that the party has been faced with a “crisis of confidence” and a “crisis of relevance” recently.
He added that going toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump should not be the only initiative, rather it is important to share the DNC’s message.
“We need a chair who can not only take the fight to Donald Trump but make sure that we talk about our positive message of inclusion and opportunity and talk to that big tent of the Democratic Party,” he said.
During the 2016 presidential election, Perez’s name was thrown around as a potential running mate for Clinton but she later selected Sen. Tim Kaine for the role.
Perez had announced his intention to run for the vacant chairman job for the DNC on Dec. 15, 2016, and has campaigned on the platform of saying the party needed “to go to the suburbs and rural America and talk to people”.
The election for the new DNC chairman was held following the resignation of former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who left the post following the 2016 DNC email leak by WikiLeaks.
Emails leaked by WikiLeaks revealed that Brazile had informed the Clinton campaign of debate questions ahead of time.
It was revealed in the email leak that Schultz showed bias against Sanders’ presidential campaign, and was succeeded as DNC chair by Donna Brazile, who served in an interim role, but ran into controversy as well.
There is no provision for the position of Deputy Chair in the party and there would be an election for the Vice Chairman later.
Ellison, the first Muslim American to be elected into Congress, in accepting the Deputy Chairman position, said “DNC has no luxury to leave the room divided”.
He called on his supporters, who are also Sanders’ supporters, to turn their support for him to Perez in the interest of a united Democratic Party.